Listen up, Peckham people! And the rest of you! Don’t think you’re getting away with not paying attention. There’s some exciting cooking going down over the next few weeks, a series of pop ups, in preparation for a change of direction for John Gionleka of Frog on The Green. I’ve had to keep my eager trap shut about this for weeks which was hard, because I always want to shout about John’s cooking at every opportunity. These pop ups are happening to give people a taster of the food that will be hopefully be served more long term at John’s new mangal restaurant; not just another mangal restaurant mind you – this is going to be very much branded with his culinary style, which draws inspiration from all over the Balkans.
We had a little menu tasting session with a few mates on Sunday and it was very promising. One of the most pleasing parts of this whole venture, to me at least, is that John plans to tackle a problem which I find myself facing in every mangal in town. That problem being that the meze is always a bit shit. I eat it, but it seems that for some unknown reason, no-one ever puts any more than the bare minimum of effort into making the various dishes. Too-cold blobs of yoghurty things, grainy hummus and fierce pink tarama (major soft spot for the latter, but still), all a bit one note, all a bit clumsy. Why? Those ingredients, those flavours…I’ve always known that meze could be fantastic. And now it is. At Peckham Bazaar, the following will be incorporated with the main dishes, rather than served as starters. Here are some of the flavours to expect…
Just look at that cacik. Okay so I know I’m a sucker for a yog dish but really, that’s some fine cacik right there. For the uninitiated, cacik is a Turkish doozy of a dip made with yoghurt (duh), grated cucumber, dill and garlic, garnished with paprika and little golden pools of oil. She purdy. Reeeal purdy.
A stunning imam bayaldi, an aubergine dish the name of which translates as ‘the priest fainted’. The story generally bandied about is that the priest fainted because the dish was so unbelievably delicious. I prefer the story that he passed out cold when he found out how much it cost to cook it. It’s just more fun to think of this priest dude as a bit of a tight arse. See how all those ingredients have sort of fainted onto that aubergine, just like the priest? That’s what makes the texture so incredible. Imagine the spreadable silk that is that aubergine underneath. Go on. It is authentically oily, which enhances the texture and encourages dunking, wiping and possible drinking from the plate. Now do a Google image search for imam bayaldi and see how shonky this dish usually looks. Again, I always knew it could be this way.
Skordalia (above) as John put it, is like ‘Greek aioli’ – a whipped mixture of potato and garlic. I confess to snaffling the leftovers and eating it on toast for breakfast the next day. ‘HIIIIII COLLEAGUES!’
Salads will provide fresh contrast to grilled meats. From the top there is tomato, cucumber, onion and chervil; celeriac, orange, radish and mint and finally watermelon with the lemon bite of sorrel – a watermelon salad without feta! John jested about that last comment, but he has a bloody good point. These will be changed according to available ingredients.
A hugely popular dish was the bottarga mayonnaise. Bottarga is dried and salted roe, the most prized being from the grey mullet, although it also comes from tuna. This mixture was like taramasalata (or taramOsalata to be correct, I believe) but more sophisticated; savoury, salty (obviously fishy) and a damn sight more wobbly. Keen eyes kept close watch on its movements around the table. I can’t say I wouldn’t have decked someone for the last spoonful.
As with the meze, the devil is in the detail. These are table seasonings, including smoked chilli with salt, home made za’atar which is thyme, sumac and sesame seeds and frankly kicks the ass of any ready made blends and finally, dukka. These are going to make excellent sprinkles for sizzling grilled bits but I found myself throwing them on everything, particularly the yoghurt and cucumbers.
I can tell you I also ate a perfectly tender, dinky lamb chop that is going to get busy with that imam bayaldi like Sean Paul gettin it on til a early morn . Other dishes will include a pressed pork belly number. See link below for full menu.
There will be lokma (loukoumades) served with chilli, salt and honey for dessert. Beer will be from the Franklyn’s brewery. Wine from Southern Puglia.
The pop up will be open for bizniz, blud (Peckham, innit) this coming weekend (12-8pm Saturday and Sunday). Watch this space and follow John or Donald or Peckham Bazaar on Twitter for more details over the coming weeks.
Peckham Bazaar at Frog on The Green
119 Consort road
12pm till 8pm Saturday and Sunday
MENU FOR THIS WEEKEND IS HERE